For weeks, friends had assumed I would be marching in the Women’s March in D.C. or at the very least participating in the streets of New York. There is a long list of things I believe in that were being represented and defended in the Women’s March in D.C., but I also believed that little old me, in a sea of other Americans, expressing a right and an opinion that held no value with the law makers in Washington, would have very little impact. All I have control over is my own behavior - my own actions and reactions. That was the best way I could contribute to the goodness of the world. I would not be marching…
People wake up when they wake up. A few presidents ago, I woke up. I registered to vote. A little late in the game, but I became informed, impassioned with my own causes, still not entirely sure my vote mattered, but I realized that women (and men) actually fought for my right to vote and that it was an insult to the history before me not to participate.
I think about those early fighters. Activism is a tricky thing because you must stay vigilant. It’s a job. One action isn’t enough. You have to stay on top of your passions, stay active, and take many more actions. I do not have the mettle of an activist. I feel my time and skills are better put to use serving others from my kitchen or a voice over booth. I’ll show up with my mind, my heart, my soul, my checkbook - but my body most likely won’t be there. Occupy Wall Street? Nope. Standing Rock? Nope. Strike with my unions? Nope. Does this make me a bad person? Nope.
One of my main reasons for my lack of participation in these events is fear. Fear of crowds. Fear of bombs. Fear of guns. Fear of the unknown. Fear of aggression. Fear of someone in the crowd doing something stupid. So when friends booked flights to D.C. the day after the election to hold their spot in the March, fanatically knitting pink pussycat hats, and making the signs they would carry, I supported them - but I knew I would not be counted among them.
As the day grew closer, my fear for my friends increased. I felt like more negative energy was gathering around the March than positive energy. Facebook was flooded with precautionary lists. Things to do in case of an emergency. Recipes for pepper spray and tear gas deterrent solutions were being passed around. Write your lawyer’s name on your arm in permanent marker in case you’re arrested, duck and cover instructions, escape routes planned…how could anyone ever think I would be in attendance at something like this?!
The day arrives and I was scheduled to cook and serve brunch for 15 young women with one of my favorite human beings, Adam. The brunch wasn’t March related, just girls coming together being girls enjoying their own good company and my food. Adam and I had planned to hang out afterward. I thought we’d watch movies, (SAG screeners), and eat a bowl of piping hot ramen after our morning of work. And Adam thought we were going to march…sigh.
I admitted my fears to him. I reported all the warnings I’d read. I gave him my pedestrian opinion of “does it really matter?” He listened, he explained his reasons for wanting to participate, and he promised that we would stay together and stay safe and that we’d leave if it felt like it wasn’t a positive experience.
We arrived at about 3pm and joined the 250,000 throng of men, women, and children walking up 5th Avenue from 42nd Street. So. Many. People. Smiling, chanting, laughing, dancing, making room for one another. Being heard, being seen, exercising their right to peacefully protest. It was overwhelmingly positive. No wonder everyone thought I’d be there!
I’ll be honest though, I felt like a poser. I was going through the motions, letting myself be carried by the enthusiasm and passion of others. I listened to the chanting, mouthed the words to some of them. I observed the people around me, imagining everyone’s individual story of why they were there. It was very easy to get swept up. But one part of me still was on high alert for some catastrophe to happen and the other part of me still kept thinking, “Does this even matter? How is this going to change anything?”
Adam upheld his end of the bargain. He held my hand or had his arm around my waist or a hand on my shoulder nearly the whole two and a half hours it took us to reach the end of the March at 55th Street and 5th Avenue. He kept me smiling, calm, and safe. And there were no reports of arrest or injury!
After saying goodbye to Adam, I came home and had my own steaming bowl of ramen. I scrolled through social media to see everyone else’s version of the day. Then I opened my mail. A friend had sent me a card with this quote on the front: “Plunge boldly into the thick of life.” -Goethe. She’d written on the inside, “I can’t think of someone who embodies the message on this card more than you.” That feeling of being a poser crept back up. I DO plunge boldly, but selectively. Trepidatiously. Inconsistently.
I decided I needed to find an answer to “Does it even matter?” I’m happy to report that yes, yes it does! In 1913, suffragists crashed Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration to demand the right to vote. They marched from New York City to Washington D.C. Not just 13 blocks and two and a half hours like I did, but 244 miles and 17 days. “In addition to suffragist literature which they handed out to curious onlookers along their route, the “suffrage pilgrims” carried a letter to the President-elect, demanding that he make suffrage a priority of his administration and warning that the women of the nation would be watching 'with an intense interest such as has never before been focused upon the administration of any of your predecessors.' The event provided a shot in the arm to the suffrage movement, but it would take another seven years of tireless and painful activism before the 19th Amendment was finally passed and ratified.” 8,000 marchers, one of them being Helen Keller!
Thank you, ladies, for your efforts. I can now vote because you marched! Our political actions matter. I matter. Thank you, Adam, for keeping me safe, for showing me the importance of being part of something bigger than my own fear, for standing up for what you believe in, and for plunging into the thick of life with me!
Oh! And here’s my recipe for Miso Ramen Noodles. Plunge deep, my friends. Into friendships that make you feel safe, into surrounding yourself with people who believe in what you believe in, in taking brave actions, into a big steaming bowl of noodles.
Miso Ramen Noodles
- 6 oz. shiitake mushroom caps, sliced
- 2 heads of baby bok choy, trimmed and roughly chopped
- 4 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
- 15 oz. firm tofu, dried and cubed into 1/2" pieces
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger (and juice)
- 1 tablespoon red miso
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 8 oz. dried Chinese noodles
- sliced scallions, for garnish
In a large skillet, cook the mushrooms in 1 teaspoon sesame oil until slightly crispy and golden. Season with salt and pepper, set aside. In the same skillet, cook the bok choy in 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper, set aside. In the same skillet, cook the tofu in 1 teaspoon of sesame oil until crispy and golden on all sides. Set aside. In the same skillet, make a paste of the ginger, miso and 1/2 cup water. Add the tofu to the miso, stirring and coating the cubes. Remove from heat. In a separate pot, bring the broth to a boil and add the noodles. Cook according to package directions (I don't rinse my noodles.) Strain the noodles and place in the bottom of 4 bowls, reserving the broth. Divide the tofu, mushrooms, and bok choy between the bowls. Gently pour broth into the bowls. Garnish with scallions.